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Secrets to Successful Communication with your School and/or District: Advice from an Educational Advocate

email to school or district

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had a lot of questions about communication with the school team. Parents are frustrated that they email and either get no response, a response with a non-answer, or a phone call. Every response gives you insight, and there are ways to check your assumptions to ensure transparent communication.  Let’s discuss what each response might mean and how to check assumptions and ensure successful communication with your child’s IEP team. 

No Response

This one is frustrating because it leaves you without any communication from the school. It is often described as being ghosted by the school. Parents have expressed anger, frustration, disappointment, and even rejection when there is no response from the school.  t is tough not to make assumptions, so let’s check them.  At Sage, we teach our clients how to ask questions that help them understand the school's perspective, thus allowing for clear, trusting communication.  

A Non-Answer

A non-answer response is almost always as frustrating as not getting any response. You know that they took the time to read your email but still didn’t answer the question(s). This typically indicates they do not want to answer the question because it might disclose something they might not be doing. In addition to possibly disclosing something, there is the real fact that many teams are inexperienced and might not know how to answer your question(s). And, sadly, there is always the possibility that a non-answer is a passive-aggressive way of interacting with you and not valuing your position as a parent.

The Phone Call

If you send an email and get a phone call instead of a written response to your question(s), this could mean a lot of different things. We approach these situations with caution. No matter how good of a relationship you might think you have with your school, they are still part of the larger district. What we mean by that is that the team works at the discretion of their evaluator and, therefore, the district. There may be things about what they are doing they want to keep undocumented, thus the phone call instead of responding in writing. They may also want to “discuss” it with you before responding to better understand your questions. They may even want to “build” on your relationship by “just talking.” What we know from clients is that they feel valued and listened to when the school calls. Sometimes, the intentions are positive; however, we have found that more often than not, the intentions are questionable. Even if you record the conversation, phone calls are ambiguous and lack clarity.  

Below, we offer some general guidance around communicating with your school team:

  1. Research the school and district policies on communication. Some districts have policies on how long staff have to return emails. Others have no such policy. If you cannot find a policy, ask the school leader what their expectations are around communication.  

  1. Keep your emails short. We know there is a real shortage of educators, and they are pressed for time, so to facilitate successful communication, keep it short and direct.  

  2. Always email your child's case manager first. They are your point person. 

  3. Have a “read receipt” if your email allows. 

  4. Do not add anyone to the email thread that is not directly related to supporting your child. Most districts will redirect your email back to the team if you email central office staff. There is a time and place for including others.  

  5. Ask questions in a non-threatening way and do not threaten to “get an advocate or lawyer.” You cannot scare a district into doing what is right for your child.  

  6. If it is not documented, it didn’t happen. 

Here are some suggestions for dealing with the following replies:

No Reply:

  1. If the district has a communication policy, refer to it in a follow-up email. For example, “according to District Policy xx” we are looking forward to your response.  

  2. Reply with “bringing this to the top of your inbox in case you missed it.”

  3. If the no-reply has been a consistent response from the team, reply with how that makes you feel. “When you do not respond to my emails, it makes me feel xxxx, and gives the impression you do not value my input.”

  4. Consult with an advocate because there may be nuances that need to be addressed.  


  1. Reply and let them know you do not think they answered your question. It is okay to be direct.  Sometimes you might need to check their response by asking for clarification.  

  2. If the non-answer has been a consistent response from the team, reply with how that makes you feel. “When you do not answer the questions directly, it makes me feel xxxx, and gives the impression you do not value my input.” Then ask if there is a reason they are not answering your questions directly.

The Phone Call:

  1. While they may have positive intentions and it might be easier to discuss on the phone, do not answer. 

  2. Follow up with an email stating you request communication be done only through email. 

  3. Do not text.  

  4. In your email, ask them why they called instead of responding via email.  

  5. Do not record the conversation unless you are aware of the laws in your state and are following them. 

  6. If you end up having a phone conversation, you must follow up with an email to the person you spoke with, summarizing your conversation. Ask them why they called you instead of emailing back. 

Communication should be purposeful, intentional, and focused on your child. Reach out to Sage EAC if you need further guidance or advice from an educational advocate.

1 Comment

Unknown member
Feb 05

Thanks, Phillip. Good advice for getting the most out of advocating for your school-age children...and beyond...

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